30 November 2008

US - Guilty Verdict in Cyberbullying Case Provokes Many Questions Over Online Identity

(New York Times)
Is lying about one's identity on the Internet now a crime? The verdict in the MySpace cyberbullying case raised a variety of questions about the terms that users agree to when they log on to Web sites. The defendant in the case was convicted by a federal jury on three misdemeanor counts of computer fraud for having misrepresented herself on the popular social network MySpace. The woman, Lori Drew, posed as a teenage boy in using the account to send first friendly and then menacing messages to Megan Meier, 13, who killed herself shortly after receiving a message in October 2006 that said in part, "The world would be a better place without you." MySpace’s terms of service require users to submit "truthful and accurate" registration information. Ms. Drew’s creation of a phony profile amounted to "unauthorized access" to the site, prosecutors said, a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986, which until now has been used almost exclusively to prosecute hacker crimes.